Minister Shorten interview on Triple J Hack with Jo Lauder



JO LAUDER, HOST: Minister, if you were to summarise these reforms in a sentence or two for people who haven't engaged with the NDIS before, how would you describe it?

SHORTEN: The NDIS is here to stay. It's changing lives for the better, but we just want to make sure that every dollar gets through to the participant. We want to make sure that it's there for future generations and that people are getting really good outcomes.

JO LAUDER, HOST: Is the problem that this review is trying to address mostly about the cost of the NDIS or how it works for people with disabilities?

SHORTEN: It's about the future for people with disability in this country first and foremost. I have a view that if we get the right disability systems, in other words, we become a country which properly includes people with disabilities and don't let their disability be a barrier to engaging, then the cost issues sort themselves out.

JO LAUDER, HOST: One point that came out from this review that you've released today is that there are so many more kids on the NDIS than was ever expected. Why wasn't that predicted when it started?

SHORTEN: I don't know, you'd have to ask the actuaries at the time. But one thing is that our awareness of and I don't want to pick particular diagnosis, but our awareness and understanding of people who are neurodivergent is really getting a lot better in the last decade. So I think there was always and beyond that, I think there were lots of kids with developmental delays who were just slipping between the net, falling out of the net and that their developmental delays weren't observed early and supported early and as a result they end up at some point in their schooling system not getting the outcomes they should. But also I think one of the issues is that the NDIS has become regarded as the only lifeboat in the ocean so if you have any developmental delay you try and get onto the NDIS whereas the NDIS is meant to be one of a menu of support for people who have developmental delays and you know what we should be doing is getting the right support for a person's needs, not telling them we've got to go to this program or that.

JO LAUDER, HOST: If there's going to be a reduction in funding for the NDIS, will that money then go to supporting people with disabilities outside the NDIS and some of those supports that we're just talking about?

SHORTEN: That's an important issue. I want to be really clear here because there'll be some people who will just try and frighten everyone. The scheme is currently growing at 16 to 17% per annum. Our aim is that in about three years, it would grow at about 8%. So there'll be no reduction in the scheme going forward. What we think we can do is that there is some money being wasted, there is some money which is being used inefficiently, there are some fraudulent providers, there are some providers who are selling therapies and supports which are just not real, not evidence-based. There's some people who, when you put the word NDIS in front of it, they just double the price of whatever they're selling or doing. So it'll keep growing and yes, some of the money which we're not going to waste in the future at the top end of the scheme will be used to reinvest in supports outside the scheme.

JO LAUDER, HOST: One of the other recommendations is around changing the NDIS. So getting a diagnosis doesn't mean automatic access to the NDIS. Does this mean that people will have to go through the process of getting diagnosed and then a whole other process of getting NDIS approval?

SHORTEN: No, the basic point about that is that what's happened a little bit in the last few years is that the scheme has changed. It was originally meant to be how your disability affects you. So you've got to have a disability then you look at how it affects you, but there were some decisions made around 2017-2018, well, if you've got the diagnosis, we won't even look at how effective it would just put you into the scheme. So that's probably led to, I think, inequitable outcomes where if you're from a cultural and linguistically diverse background, if you live in the bush or if you're very working class and you haven't got a lot of access to fancy report writing, you don't get in. Your need doesn't get examined, but then other people who are able to get a diagnosis are able to have a much more... easier run into the scheme. We want to take it back to its original purpose and the disability sector fundamentally agrees with this. Let's look at the disability and then the impact that has on you and then what support you need.

JO LAUDER, HOST: Yeah, we heard earlier from Dave who he lives in regional Australia and he told us that it took hours and hours and thousands of dollars to do those assessments that you were saying to determine his functional impairment. Are you saying that this would potentially make it easier?

SHORTEN: Yeah, we're looking at… the Review’s asked us to look at the National Disability Insurance Agency, the people who run the NDIS, that they pay for the report. That will just change a whole lot of things, it will mean people who have got, anyway it's going to decrease the price of reports, it will decrease the overcharging on some of them. It will also mean that people, groups in our society who don't have access as you said to that problem that Dave outlined will all of a sudden be on a level playing field.

JO LAUDER, HOST: You're listening to HACK and I'm speaking to the NDIS Minister, Bill Shorten. Minister, are you concerned that some people might get kicked off what you call the only lifeboat in the ocean and they might be left without those outside supports from the outside the NDIS like you said?

SHORTEN: No, I mean at the… first of all, just at the moment, your plans can be increased or decreased or kicked off or put on now. So it's not as if that... everyone on it now is guaranteed exactly everything going forward and in some cases they'll need more and in some cases they'll need less. But the purpose of these changes is to make sure that a person is getting the right sort of support. So what will define whether or not you get onto the scheme are your needs. So that won't change. So if you have needs of support which the NDIS supplies then you'll get them from the NDIS, if your needs are not as intensive or... you don't need that sort of support, then what we want to do is provide you other options. So people who genuinely need to be on the scheme will still be on the scheme, people who can get their support, and none of this is going to happen overnight, we're talking about years. I've been around, I don't want to just, you know, this is not some magician's trick where you sort of pull a blanket off a box and you go ta-da. This is people's lives we're talking about, people with disability that don't need things done to them, they need things done with them. So there'll be a long process and a lot of kids getting support now, I mean nothing's going to change tomorrow. But over the journey, I do want to have a conversation with our childcare system, our school system, but of course we can't do that unless there's extra resources. So I'm not intending to leave people in the lurch.

JO LAUDER, HOST: Just on that as well, we have a lot of people in our audience who work in the disability sector as well. We've been reporting a lot this week about how lots of people who work across the whole healthcare sector are pretty burnt out at the moment. What's being done with these reforms, is there anything to address those staffing issues as well?

SHORTEN: Yeah, there is some. There's a discussion in the report about do we look at portable training, do we look at portable long service leave. We're also separately, I'm meeting with the unions across Australia, lots of the employers and disability advocates because everything's got to include the voice of people with disability, and we're looking at how we can make… decrease the churn. So one thing we can do by decreasing the churn is offer more permanent jobs in the Agency. The second thing we can do is try and lift standards of accreditation and screening, give people career paths and of course the more training you get and the more accreditation you get then you're able to be paid more money.

JO LAUDER, HOST: Mr Shorten, thank you so much for making the time to come on Hack on such a busy day.

SHORTEN: It's a very important issue and I just want to, we're going to talk to people the whole time and listen to people. There's zero arrogance in this, it's about making sure that people with disability get the best deal possible and that the scheme's there for future generations. Thank you.